William George Searle "Bimbo" White
- 286Wallaby Number
‘Bimbo’ White was the sort of bloke every Wallaby wanted at their side when the going got tough in rugby's trenches. A veritable giant for a lock forward of his era, White never backed down from a challenge and attacked most tasks with commendable vigour. That approach served him well, particularly in the cauldron of a tour in South Africa. Born in Mackay, White was educated at Mackay State High School and then Brisbane Grammar School where he played four seasons in the 1st XV (1927-30). After graduating he enrolled in Science at the University of Queensland for whom he played his first grade football.
Not surprisingly White quickly attracted attention, on account of his size - 6ft 3in and nigh on 16st - and also for his dynamic performances. In 1931 he made his state debut against New South Wales at the Exhibition Ground however fellow Queensland locks Fred Whyatt and Max White were preferred for the tour to New Zealand. A year later Graham Cooke and Geoff Bland were paired in the middle row for the three home Tests against New Zealand however a strong showing for The Rest against New South Wales in the final trial for the 1933 tour to South Africa secured the talented giant a spot in the 29-man touring party.
White's willingness to commit himself in rucks and mauls quickly won the admiration of the South Africans who recognised a forward that played in a style that was at the core of their own game. White was of one of the Wallabies’ indispensable men as he played in an incredible 17 of the 23 tour matches. He also started all five Test matches, including his debut in Cape Town. He came to Sydney in 1934 to study at the University of Sydney and was a member of the first Australian team to win the Bledisloe Cup. In 1936 White was one of the few Australians to return home with his reputation intact after the disappointing tour to New Zealand and he looked set to be a shoe-in selection to face the Springboks a year later. Unfortunately White chose to retire from rugby, return to Mackay and focus on his career.
During the Second World War White enlisted with the RAAF and trained in both England and Canada. He achieved the rank of Flight Lieutenant and in 1944 won a Distinguished Flying Cross. White’s citation explained that as captain of a Sunderland Flying boat he had completed 200 hours flying on convoy and reconnaissance missions over the North Sea and the North Atlantic, and was awarded for his ‘courage, coolness and unflagging enthusiasm on sorties’. He was often said to be the biggest pilot in either the RAF or the RAAF. When asked how a man of his physique managed to fit in the dwarf-sized cockpits White replied, “They build the planes around me”.
White won his first Test cap at lock, alongside fellow Queensland man-mountain Graham Cooke, in the 1st Test, 3-17 loss to South Africa at Newlands. White and Cooke were retained in the middle row for the second and third matches of the series before Geoff Bland partnered White in the the fourth and fifth internationals
White started both home Tests against New Zealand, the first paired with ‘Weary’ Dunlop and the second alongside debutant Ron Walden.
The Wallabies did not play a Test match in 1935.
White earned his final three caps from the two away losses to New Zealand, when partnered with Frank Hutchinson, and the 31-6 victory over the Maori in Palmerston North.